Monday, November 28, 2011

Movie Monday: The Last Exorcism

This week's movie is the supernatural horror film The Last Exorcism!

I'm always up for a good horror movie--and see so few--that when I read some interesting things about this film, another in the "found footage" genre, I decided to give The Last Exorcism a shot:

The film opens sans any sort of credit sequence; rather we're immediately introduced to the faux-documentary's subject, Pastor Cotton Marcus:
Cotton is a family man, a religious man, but also someone who sees himself above most of the people he preaches to. We see clips of his sermons, which are combinations of religious ceremony, magic at, and stand-up routine. At one point he mouths a bunch of nonsense, and watches his parishioners eat it up.

He has performed a number of exorcisms, even specializes in it, because he has come to believe its science that can explain these incidents, and is on a secret crusade to debunk all the supernatural trappings behind these mysterious events.

He shows off the stack of letters he gets every day, from desperate people looking to him for help. He opens one from a farmer named Louis Sweetzer:
Cotton mocks the letter while reading it aloud, and decides to head to the small, backwoods town of Ivanwood to help Sweetzer's daughter Nell, who he claims is possessed.

The first sign of something amiss is when they stop a young man and ask for directions to the Sweetzer farm. The teen is polite, but then turns very serious when he instructs them, in no uncertain terms, to go back to where they came from. When they blow him off and drive on, he quietly walks away and then begins throwing rocks at their car:
Cotton and the camera crew (named Iris and Daniel) drive on, but the latter two are clearly unnerved at this. They are not reassured when they arrive at the Sweetzer farm, only to learn that the young boy is Nell's brother Caleb.

They meet with Nell (Ashley Bell) who, like her brother, is home-schooled. She seems simple and sweet, but also very fragile. She compliments Iris' boots, and almost squeals with delight when Iris gives them to her as a gift.
Using hidden sound equipment and props hidden beforehand, Cotton performs the "exorcism", which stuns Nell's father, believing every second of it. Cotton tells him that Nell is cured, and plans to leave town.

That night, Nell steals the camera, and goes on a rampage--she murders a cat (thankfully, the details of which are mostly obscured), and plans to kill Cotton before the crew wakes up and stop her. Marcus is convinced that Nell has a serious medical problem, and takes her to a nearby hospital, where she is found to be physically fine.

They meet with the family's former pastor, who says that the Sweetzer family left the church a while ago and have not been seen for months, much to their displeasure. Nell slashes her brother in the face, and while his father takes him to the hospital, Cotton and the crew do some investigating. They find some disturbing drawings that seem to represent Cotton and his crew:
The crew is pictured as being violently murdered, which further unnerves Iris and Daniel. They don't demand to pack up and leave, exactly, but whatever fears they have are dismissed by Cotton.

The hospital calls and states that Nell is pregnant. Cotton believes its the work of the father, in an act of incest. The father of course denies this, and insists that Nell is a virgin, and this is the work of the devil. He and Cotton argue when the father asks for another exorcism. It grows almost violent, with the father chasing the crew off his land with a shotgun. He only allows them to come back when they agree to perform another exorcism.

This takes place in the barn, where Nell contorts herself into unnatural positions (done without CGI, a nice touch). Nell starts speaking in another voice, which sounds unearthly, but Cotton catches something: Nell, trying to offend, refers to a "blowing job", which tips Cotton off into thinking this is all coming from Nell's diseased mind: after all, the Devil itself would know what the correct term was, but a home-schooled young girl might not:
Later, Nell tells them of Logan, a local boy who supposedly impregnated her. On their way out of town, Cotton and the crew visit Logan, who vehemently denies he had sex with Nell, having only seen her once, at a get together at their pastor's home--he also quietly admits he is gay, a claim they believe.

While leaving town, they discuss the case, and Cotton decides to turn around and head back to the Sweetzer farm. He realizes that the pastor's claim that he had not seen Nell in a long time is a lie, and that the story just doesn't add up.

Okay--at this point the film reveals its Big Ending, so if you don't want to learn any more about The Last Exorcism, don't read any further! You can safely skip down to the next set of asterisks.


When they get to the house, its dark and deserted.
A few yards away, Cotton and the crew spy what can only be some sort of cult ritual: Nell is on a table, and the pastor is what looks like delivering her baby. He pulls out something that looks like a baby, sort of, which he hurls into a pyre, which only seems to make the fire grow larger, and some sort of plume of smoke rises from it, along with demonic sounds. The cameraman also catches Louis Sweetzer, tied up and blindfolded, against a tree.

Iris and Daniel want to run away, but Cotton is transfixed--as if, in this moment, his faith in God has been restored. He grabs his crucifix, holding it aloft, and heads towards the fire--looking exactly like the drawing Nell did earlier.

Iris and Daniel take off, and Daniel--still filming--manages to capture a cult member grabbing Iris and hacking her to death with an axe. Daniel runs and runs, pausing to catch his breath. He finds himself face to face with Caleb, who swings some sort of blade, clearly decapitating Daniel. The camera falls to the ground, and stops moving. The End.


I enjoyed The Last Exorcism quite a bit--it spends a good amount of time establishing Cotton. And while I can't say I was all that wrapped up with the character, I am a sucker for any horror movie set in some remote backwoods--I find that idea inherently terrifying, so any movie with that setting already has me halfway.

Many people have criticized the ending, saying it violates the entire movie leading up to it, and I guess it does--the whole theme of the film is letting the audience decide whether Nell is actually possessed or if it is all in her head. The ending scene leaves no doubt.

The performances all around quite real and natural. The movie itself violates the "found footage" concept by dropping in background music occasionally and, if we were going to take this the whole way, how are we even seeing this footage, in this somewhat edited form? Wouldn't the film have been confiscated, or is that the subject of the inevitable sequel?

Overall, I thought The Last Exorcism was pretty scary--it generally refrains from cheap jump scares, preferring to put you in the shoes of the crew, who are in way over their heads (no pun intended). And, unlike Cotton Marcus, they know it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Movie Monday: Captain America

This week's movie is the blockbuster superhero adventure Captain America: The First Avenger!

Last Summer, I managed to see Thor, X:Men First Class, and Green Lantern in theaters, but never got around to see what was supposedly the best of the bunch, Captain America. So I was really excited when it hit DVD to have the chance to sit down and catch up:
The movie opens up in the present day, with two representatives from SHIELD (one played by Clark Gregg, who has essayed the same role in almost all of these Avengers tie-in films) as they are called to a scene in the arctic of an amazing discovery:
We then flash back to the 1940s, and find brave but hopelessly inadequate Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he tries yet again to be accepted into the nation's armed forces, hoping to sent overseas to fight:
Rogers, who has a host of physical ailments, is rejected again. He goes out on a double date with his best friend James "Bucky" Barnes, who is in uniform, having been accepted. Despite being set up with a beautiful woman, Steve is depressed, feeling left behind.

While trying again to get drafted (using yet another alias), he is spotted by a doctor named Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who takes him aside and asks him some questions about why Steve wants to fight. To kill Nazis? No. To serve his country the best way he knows how? Yes.

Erskine sees something in this young man, and signs him up. Shortly thereafter, Steve finds himself part of a unit run by Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), where he again shows grit and smarts, far beyond that of his fellow soldiers. Against Phillips' suggestion, Erkine picks Rogers to be the guinea pig of their new "Super Solider" experiment.

Before you can say Secret Origin, Steve is transformed from a skinny, asthmatic kid into a beefy, muscled man of action. Case in point: when a Nazi spy tries to blow up Erskine's lan--shooting Erskine in the process--Steve chases after him on foot, through the streets of New York:
Meanwhile, a Nazi known as The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) is, with his partner Arnim Zola (Tony Jones), developing a super weapon that can annihilate anything that crosses its path. We learn that the Skull is also the result of Erskine's experiments, which he deemed as a failure before moving to the United States. Harnessing the power of what we'll come to know as The Cosmic Cube, the Skull plans to take over the world--and that even includes Hitler's Germany!

Back in America, Steve is put into a gaudy costume and used as a symbol of propaganda. As Captain America, Steve shills for war bonds, entertains the troops, stars in movie serials, and punches out Hitler every single night, live on stage:

America falls in love with the good Captain, and he becomes a national symbol, even getting his own comic book:

(The book seen above is the actual Captain America #1 from 1941 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, a nice touch)

While the U.S. Government loves Cap, Steve feels like a clown, like he's not really contributing anything of substance. After getting jeered by some troops, he sneaks off to rescue Bucky's unit, who has disappeared somewhere behind enemy lines.

He finds Bucky, as well as a bunch of brave fighting men who we recognize as the future Howling Commandos (save Nick Fury, of course):
With his new vibranium shield (developed by genius Howard Stark, father of you know who), Cap and the guys take on the Red Skull's army, known as HYDRA. Its here that Cap and the Red Skull meet for the first time, and Cap is shocked to see that the Skull seems as powerful as he is.

Cap does get a good shot in on the Skull, and immediately he--and we--see something's more than a little off with the guy: his whole face seems to sag, like its going to fall off, and there's a shock of red underneath:
Arnim Zola is captured during a daring mission aboard a moving train, and Bucky is killed. Using info from Zola (during a nice, tense scene between the two Jonses, Tommy Lee and Tony), Cap goes after the Skull at his secret HQ. The Skull tries to escape via his souped-up war plane. but Cap climbs aboard.

During their fight, the Cosmic Cube gets loose of its container, and when the Skull touches the Cube, it seemingly immolates him. Cap, left aboard a damaged plane headed straight for America with WMDs aboard, sees no other option than to purposely aim the plane to crash in the Arctic. Over the radio, he says goodbye to Sharon Carter (Hayley Atwell), the British agent who has been his guide--and sometimes more than that--throughout this whole adventure:
The plane crashes, and later Howard Stark finds the Cosmic Cube, but can find no trace of Steve or the plane. Where did they go?

Cut to: a short time later, and Steve awakens in a small hospital room. There's a radio playing a baseball game from 1941, and when a young woman enters he knows she's lying: he was at that baseball game!

Steve bursts through the door, and learns that the room he was in was merely a set, all fake. He runs onto the streets of New York, and sees a whole new world. He's stopped by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, of course), and is told he's been asleep for almost seventy years. Steve is bewildered, but mostly sad: if he survived the plane crash, he had a date with Sharon:
...The End!

I went into Captain America with pretty high expectations: I had seen a lot of reviews calling it the best superhero movie ever, as good as Raiders of the Lost Ark, etc. Now, I knew neither of those things could really be true, but after being generally disappointed with last summer's superhero movie crop (I liked Thor, thought X-Men: First Class was okay, despised Green Lantern) I really hoped Captain America would be the best of the bunch. And, overall, I would say it is.

Chris Evans does a solid job of evolving from plucky kid to plausible man of action (although I found CGIing his face onto a shrunken version of himself a bit off-putting), and of course he looks the part. The inclusion of the Howling Commandos I thought was great--to me, the best scene in the movie is Cap's rescue and subsequent escape with them, and I wish I could see a whole movie of just them kicking Nazi butt.

The romance with Hayley Atwell as Sharon Carter was kind of eh, it I didn't feel a whole lot of chemistry between Evans and Atwell so when they made a tearful date that they both knew would never be kept, it doesn't have the emotional resonance it would supposed to. That said, I thought ending the film on a melancholy moment--Steve realizing that Sharon is long dead--was gutsy and a welcome change to the usual bom-bom-BOM! crash-bang finale most superheroes have, to set everyone up for the inevitable sequel.

The film looks great (I'm a sucker for 30s and 40s Americana), but the film does make the mistake of making all period detail--the rooms, the cars, etc.--all gleaming and clean, like they were just built, which of course they were.

By far the weakest part of the movie is The Red Skull. Hugo Weaving is decent in the role, but he never gets one line of dialogue that isn't of the "...and I vill rule the vorld!" variety, and he never for once seems like a real person (compare that to, say, Raiders' Paul Freeman as Belloq). Tony Jones does better, in the very Peter Lorre-esque role of Arnim Zola; there's a shot of him running for his life, hunched over, that reminded me a bit of Lorre in M.

I guess my main complaint about the overall approach the film took is, ironically enough, also one the big problems that the ultra-lame 1990 Captain America movie had (among its many): its in such a hurry to put Cap on ice (literally) that he barely gets to become this towering, legendary heroic figure before being yanked off the scene and wakes up in modern day. I guess movie studios just don't believe an all-period action movie is commercial enough (that doesn't bode well for my hopes of there ever being an Ace Kilroy movie), so they just rush him through the WWII stuff so he can wake up in modern times.

But I still liked Captain America quite a bit: the performances are pretty good, the action well staged, and it moves quite well: it gets the central conceit of Steve Rogers pretty well, and manages to not make him look hopelessly square. Post credits, there's an additional scene with Cap and Nick Fury, leading to a preview of The Avengers, out next Summer.

Growing up reading comics in the 70s and 80s, I didn't think I would ever be able to say such a thing!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Movie Monday: Memoirs of an Invisible Man

This week's movie is the action/comedy Memoirs of an Invisible Man!

For whatever reason, most of John Carpenter's body of work is available on Netflix WI, which is great for me: I'm such a fan of his that I've been programming entire days of nothing but John Carpenter movies.

One of his most underrated films, IMO, is 1992's Memoirs of an Invisible Man, starring Chevy Chase.
The film opens with narration by Chase, playing Nick Halloway who, indeed, is invisible! As we watch him chew gum and twirl a pencil for the benefit of a video camera, he records his story, starting from the beginning:
Halloway is a stock analyst, but seems to not care too much about his job. In a flurry of activities, Halloway takes off for some drinks at a nearby club, where he meets up with his friend George (Michael McKean), who introduces him to a mutual friend, named Alice (Darryl Hannah):
Its love--or at least lust--at first sight for both of them, and after some passionate groping, they make plans to have lunch later in the week. Alice proves herself to be just as strong a character as Nick, which seems to interest him all the more.

The next day, Nick attends a stockholder's meeting at Magnascopic Labs. Bored to tears, we wanders off to a small room to take a nap. While asleep, a mishap occurs in another part of the lab, causing something unexpected: parts of the building becomes invisible:

Nick wakes up, and of course completely freaks out: he's invisible! It takes him a few minutes before he realizes what's happened to him
A group of government agents, led by the eerily-calm David Jenkins (Sam Neill), descend on the building, and when they spy Nick, they cart him off on a stretcher after he knocks himself out banging into an invisible wall.

Nick wakes up overhearing what Jenkins has planned for him, which is basically a never-ending stream of medical experiments. Not believing Jenkins' smooth talk, Nick escapes onto the streets of San Francisco.

To this point, MOAIM is a decent, if unremarkable, sci-fi thriller comedy. Chase is doing something a tad different here, and while that's fun to watch, its nothing exceptional. But its at this moment that the film could have taken several different turns, and thankfully Carpenter and his screenwriters take the road less traveled:
Instead of just going for cheap gags, Memoirs explores what it would really be like to be invisible: sounds great, right? Well, maybe for a short while, but while on the run Nick discovers how lonely he is: afraid of being caught by Jenkins and his goons (especially after he realizes they know where he lives), he has to wander the streets, always moving. Since no one can see him, he's always at risk of being knocked into, or shoved aside. Plus, he's so, so hungry!

Chevy Chase brings a palpable pathos to the role of Nick, and while there are some gags (he off-handedly foils a purse snatching, much to the bewilderment of the crook and victim), for the most part the film is played straight.

Finally, Nick gets the idea to find the scientist he saw that morning, assuming he might be able to help cure him. He confronts the man at a nearby park, dressed like a bum to avoid being noticed. When the scientist, horrified at what has happened, tells Nick it might take years to undo what has happened, Nick loses his temper and yells: "I want my molecules back!"
This is another scene that could have gone the way movies typically do: instead, the scientist is bewildered at what has happened (the experiments were never about invisibility, this was a random side effect), and actually wants to help Nick. When he spies two of Jenkins' goons aiming a gun at Nick, he jumps into the line of fine, giving Nick a chance to escape.

Nick then decides to try and learn more about Jenkins, and maybe reporting himself to the government. He sneaks into Jenkins' office and sits in a corner, listening to everything. In another great scene, Nick, who has been sitting in the same position all day, stretches his legs. There's a quiet little "snap" as he does, which he fears reveals his presence to Jenkins:
Jenkins, knowing Nick is in the room, tries to bargain with him, while also advising him not to go to the higher-ups: because once he does, he will never be free.

Nick escapes, and hides out at the summer beach home of his friend George. He dreams of living a regular life, while still being invisible. Pretending to be his friend, he orders food deliveries ("My doctors say I need clear food") and contemplates contacting Alice, who wondered what happened to Nick after their first meeting.

Unfortunately, George, his wife, Alice, and a mutual friend arrive at the house to stay the weekend, and can't figure out why the house has been stocked with food. They surmise its Nick's work, and Alice grows concerned. She rebuffs the clumsy advances of the mutual friend, and Nick helps by tossing the guy across the room when he lunges for Alice in her bedroom.

Nick moves into another house down the beach and calls Alice, begging her to come see him (ah, if only). He explains what's happened, and they plan to go into hiding together, Alice showing a grit and devotion that helps Nick fall in love with her.

But all that falls apart when Jenkins and his men kidnap Alice (after overhearing a phone call that tips them off to his location), and demand Nick turn himself in. He agrees in exchange for Alice going free, calling from a nearby phone booth. This is the film's only moment where it uses classic Invisible Man iconography via Nick's disguise:
Jenkins and his men surround Nick, shoving Alice into a nearby cab. Nick tries to escape, but is stopped in his tracks. Jenkins punches Nick in the stomach, but then senses something is wrong: he grabs the bandages, and underneath them is...George! Where's Nick Halloway?

Turns out Nick pulled a fast one on Jenkins, and, in disguise, is driving the cab that picked up Alice. But Jenkins catches up with him, chasing Nick into a construction site. Nick, finally getting a hang of his invisibility, tricks Jenkins once again, leading to his death. Everyone assumes Nick is dead as well, including Alice, but she is startled when she hears Nick's voice in her ear. She--and he--quietly walks away from the whole sordid scene.

Over the end credits, we that Nick and Alice have built a life together, albeit an unusual one:
...the film ends with Nick and Alice's romantic bliss, but there's some melancholy there, too: after all, Nick is still invisible, and, presumably, will always be. The End.

Visually, Memoirs of an Invisible Man is nothing special: shot in a fairly bland way, both in terms of composition and colors, the film still stands out to me because, at virtually every turn, it takes the road less traveled. After all, if all you know about this movie is that Chevy Chase plays an invisible man, you can guess what you're gonna get: lots of prat falls, dumb jokes, Chevy being silly.

And while there is some of that (Chevy dresses up in disguise a lot, reminding one of Fletch), it always winds its way back to taking this story seriously. Since this film was produced by Chase's production company, we can only assume this was his intention, and I thought he pulled it off.

Sadly, MOAIM was not a box office hit, and Chase went right back to the silly crap he's been mostly known for--he followed up this movie with Cops and Robbersons, Man of the House, and Vegas Vacation. Ugh. I guess, on some level, that makes me like this movie more, because its so unappreciated. Again, its no classic, but its a film that tries to break the mold, and succeeds a lot of the time. Originally this film was going to be directed by Ivan Reitman, who wanted it to be more traditionally silly; I guess we have Chase and Carpenter to thank for the making the more serious, and more interesting, film that they did.

Before I sign off, I just want to mention one more thing about how the deck was stacked against this movie. Check out the poster:
I guess Warner Bros. figured "Chevy Chase" in giant letters was not enough to let people know he was in the movie, they had to airbrush his face onto the invisible form, which really makes no sense! How eye-catching would have this poster been if they had just let the invisible man be invisible?!? To me, this ham-handed attempt to make the poster more traditional is a perfect example of the kind of thing this movie, in its own small way, was working against. No wonder it failed.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Movie Monday: Jackie Brown

This week's movie is Quentin's Tarantino's Jackie Brown!

Part of the point of these Movie Mondays has been to talk about an obscure movie and give it a look, or talk about something brand new that people maybe haven't had a chance to see. Of course, Jackie Brown doesn't fit either category, since its a film by one of the most famous movie directors of the last couple of decades, stars big name actors, and has been around long enough that anyone who wants to see it has seen it. So why cover it?

Well, Jackie Brown came out on Blu-Ray a few weeks ago (paired up with Pulp Fiction, I believe) and at first I rolled my eyes at some critics insistence that it is Tarantino's best film, even better than PF. I had seen Jackie Brown when it came out in 1997, and very much enjoyed it, but saying it was better than Pulp Fiction--one of the most influential movies of the last quarter century--seemed like revisionist history, the kind of thing critics say when they want to sound just a little hipper than everyone else (I feel the same way when its said that one of Orson Welles' later films is better than Citizen Kane. As good/great as many of Welles' films were, they're not better than Kane. Citizen Kane is Welles', and anyone else's for that matter, best film. Period.).

But while I was skeptical of all this effusive praise, I thought why not give Jackie Brown another spin, especially since its available on Netflix WI?
Jackie Brown opens like film right out of the 1970s, with a long tracking shot of Jackie (Pam Grier of course, still looking gorgeous) as she makes her way down an airport walkway, as Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street" plays on the soundtrack.

Jackie is working for a rinky-dink airline, after a flight back from Mexico she's stopped by two DEA agents, Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) and Ray Nicolette (the awesome, why-isn't-he-in-more-movies Michael Keaton). They check her bags, and find a ton of cash, as well as a small bag of drugs, the latter Jackie seems surprised over. They lean on her, trying to get her to give up the name of the person she's working for.

That person is Ordell Robbie (Samuel Jackson), who is involved in several illegal enterprises, along with his dim-witted pal Louis (Robert DeNiro):
We're introduced to them both via a long scene (many scenes in Jackie Brown are long) and Ordell is charming, funny, but also very scary. Jackson excels at conveying a river of violence running just beneath a gregarious exterior, and we see some glimmers of that in how he treats his sort-of girlfriend, the perpetually-stoned Mel (Bridget Fonda, looking ridiculously sexy):
Before the problem with Jackie, Ordell has to bail out another one of his messengers, a kid named Beaumont. He turns to a local bailbondsman named Max Cherry, played by Robert Forster (another actor whose career Tarantino was resuscitating with this film). Max takes Ordell's money, but in their first scene together (in Max's office), you can tell that Max doesn't really buy most of what Ordell is saying, and keeps him at somewhat arm's length. He also looks hesitant over how Louis just sort of wanders around the office, doing nothing in particular.

Beaumont gets bailed out, and gets a visit from Ordell. Since Beaumont is played by the motor-mouthed Chris Tucker, the scene between him and Jackson is a flurry of curses and the N-word being tossed back and forth. That river of violence of Ordell's comes to the surface when, after talking Beaumont into taking a short drive with him, he shoots Beaumont to death, execution-style.

After Jackie gets busted, Ordell asks Max to flip the money used to bail out Beaumont to Jackie. Max goes to pick up Jackie at the local lock-up, and in a bravura scene, we see Max is instantly smitten:
Max watches Jackie come towards him, and Tarantino stretches out the scene to improbable lengths (Jackie seems to take ten minutes to walk a few feet). As he cuts back to Max, he pulls in closer and closer, and we can read Max's lined face and see something stirring that maybe hasn't stirred in a long, long time.

Max is pretty clear he likes Jackie, but in a very plainspoken, charming way. Jackie likes Max too, and they get a drink together and talk. Max doesn't trust Jackie exactly, but he's clearly smitten (there's a hilarious scene where hear an answering machine message Max leaves for Jackie, where he rattles off so many different numbers he can be reached at it becomes either desperately sad or desperately funny. I've been there, pal). He's simultaneously protective and wary of her.

There's a lot of plot in this movie--a lot--but its not really about that. Tarantino is more interested watching how these characters interact, how they respond to events. Jackie sees a way out of the dead-end she's been on, Max falls hard for Jackie, the DEA tries to nab Ordell, and Ordell does whatever he has to to get his money from Mexico into his hands.

All the performances are outstanding; none mores so than Robert Forster, whose Max Cherry is so compelling I would have loved to see spin-off into his own Rockford Files-esque spin-off. In the middle of all this sex, drugs, and murder, Cherry is so soft-spoken that first he seems like a chump; but we get to see his inner resolve and you can't help but root for him.

Fonda is great as a girl so sure of her sexiness that she takes risks, big risks, and her final scene ends with an act of violence so arbitrary that its shocking. DeNiro manages to come across as a dim bulb, Keaton is electric as the hyper DEA agent (a role he reprised in Out of Sight), and Jackson is tremendous as a very charming guy, but one you know you probably don't want anything to do with. Tying it all together of course is Pam Grier as Jackie, who, along with Forster, gets the role of a lifetime here.

The movie's pace is leisurely; there's a dry run of the sting Jackie and the DEA run against Ordell, and then the sting itself, yet both sequences are taut and involving, and despite the two and a half hour running time I was never, ever bored.

I won't get into the details of the rest of the plot, but I don't think I'm giving anything way to mention that the film ends with a long close-up of Grier. You can almost feel the love and affection Tarantino has for her just as the credits roll:

As I said, at the time of its release I remember liking Jackie Brown, and thought it was a fine successor to the triumph of Pulp Fiction, but I concluded it didn't match its predecessor.

Well, now I'm not so sure--unlike his other films (before and aft), Tarantino seemed to want to downplay the genre pastiches and make a more character-centric piece with Jackie Brown, and now having seen the film again I see he succeeded, wildly. Roger Ebert said in his review that he could have watched these characters go on for hours more, and I agree: right after watching Jackie Brown all the way through, I put it back on and watched it all over again.

So while I may have rolled my eyes at it a few weeks ago, I think now I agree: Jackie Brown is Quentin Tarantino's best film.

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